DOOMSQUAD share ‘Dorian’s Closet’

Toronto’s ardent art-dance sibling trio DOOMSQUAD have shared the video for their new single ‘Dorian’s Closet’, a track honouring legendary drag queen Dorian Corey, best known for her role in the film Paris Is Burning. ‘Dorian’s Closet’ is the second single from DOOMSQUAD’s new LP “Let Yourself Be Seen”, out 10 May via Bella Union, and is accompanied by a video featuring the celebrated Chilean drag queen Anna Balmanica.

“Dorian Corey was at the heart of the NYC ballroom / vogue scene in the early 80s. She was a role-model and matriarchal figure for a lot of queer POC youth. When she passed away, due to AIDS, they discovered a mummified body in her closet dating back to 15 years ago. The body was of an ex-con who was believed to be a controlling and abusive ex-lover, and she carried the body around with her from apartment to apartment over all those years.

“We wanted to tell a much softer and gentler story about a drag queen. One where drag culture has become fully normalized and accepted by society. Where people can feel safe and empowered leaving the house in the middle of the afternoon in drag and carrying out normal day-to-day tasks.  Removing the idea around drag culture being exclusively for the night, and carried out in ballrooms, and clubs.”

Due for release on 10 May via Bella Union, Let Yourself Be Seen is the most assertive, ambitious, groove-sodden declaration of intent yet from Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas: the sound of dance floor believers and thinkers firing on all personal and political fronts, at a time when we need it most.

Even if DOOMSQUAD never lacked the courage of their convictions, Let Yourself Be Seen ups the stakes.On 2016’s Total Time, the trio issued invitations to free your mind, body and spirit over dirty bass-lines and hypnotic disco jams. And yet, their reliance on unspoken sibling intuition left them fearing that much of its “message and meaning” had gone unheard.Thus, the trio took a more forthright approach for their third album, aiming to“crystallise what DOOMSQUAD is and what it means to us. What we always knew but put at the forefront of this record is that DOOMSQUAD is a project of protest, catharsis and emotional and spiritual reconnection through music and, especially, through dance-music culture. It’s about activating the body on the most fundamental level, into states of change,release and reunion.”

Richly steeped in the influences of acid house, West African disco, spiritual jazz, NYC no-wave and new-age ambient music, Let Yourself Be Seen hums with a  sense of vigorous, invigorating purpose. After the overture of ‘Spandrel’, ‘General Hum’ sends out a buoyant new-wave rallying cry for maximised engagement just when the world seems intent on stifling it. “Is there a place for spirit anymore?” it asks. Kicking in with a percussive bustle that all but defies you to try and stand still, ‘Aimless’ answers in the affirmative.

The result is an album for fraught political times, charged by the impetus to bring “music back to the body”. Close-to-home influences on that score include Tanya Tagaq and Peaches, both of whom DOOMSQUAD have toured with;further afield, Peter Gabriel, Diamanda Galás, Genesis P-Orridge and Underworld numbered among inspirations. Meanwhile, as the trio’s creative process took them from a lakeside cabin to a studio in Toronto, they benefited from the input of kindred spirits such as Ejji Smith, whose virtuoso guitar-shredding propels ‘Let It Go’. Israeli jazz composer Itamar Erez adds watery synths to‘Emma’, while a key studio collaborator was producer/artist Sandro Perri, whose credits include Barzin.

DOOMSQUAD’s second album “Let Yourself be Seen” is due for release on 10May via Bella Union. The band have confirmed UK live dates, including TheVictoria in London on 23 May.

Happy Release Day E.B. The Younger

Today at Bella Union we are celebrating the release of To Each His Own, the debut album by E.B. The Younger, the solo project from long standing Bella Union family member and Midlake frontman Eric Pulido. 

To Each His Own is a deeply personal record rooted in Pulido’s love of warm, glowing rock, folk and country hues that came of age in the 1970s woven with contemporary recalibrations: guitars ripple, sigh and sizzle alongside gliding keyboards over crisp, choppy and becalmed rhythms. Pulido’s lyrics equally look back and forth, philosophising about his place in the world, the choices he’s made, and where they have taken him.

Or, as he describes To Each His Own, “an eleven-song journey through the life and times of a wayward Midlaker seeking to find purpose in an uncharted land. Will he find his way? Listen, and ye shall find.”

Pulido’s “wayward” phase began in 2014 with a break from Midlake, “to invest time in kids and musical projects less physically demanding”, he says. His first project was the transatlantic collective BNQT, a self-described ‘poor man’s Travelling Wilburys’ featuring Pulido, Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Fran Healy (Travis), Jason Lytle (Granddaddy) and Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand) who recorded the 2017 album BNQT – Volume 1. But To Each His Own is all Pulido – or rather, E.B. The Younger.

“It’s an antiquated way of naming a younger member of a family,” he explains. “I’m expressing, simply, that something greater came before me. It’s countering the idea in today’s culture that everything revolves around ourselves, that we’re the most important thing in the world. I feel that humility is a lost virtue – you only have to look at America’s current leader to see just how lost – which I want this record to represent. Honesty, empathy, love.”

In this case, honesty begins at home. Solo debutantes typically distance themselves from their musical past, but Pulido freely acknowledges Midlake’s presence on To Each His Own, from the three Midlakers in his backing band to an album title that stems from his memories of band discussions. Says Pulido: “It’s very common in bands to have artistic differences, and we were no exception. Saying ‘To each his own’ was almost a way to collectively acquiesce and move forward when differences would arise. It’s OK that we feel differently, because both opinions are valid. The phrase is also about me doing something on my own, a statement that it’s OK to define who you are outside of what has defined you before.”

With Pulido on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, he drafted in Midlakers (and BNQT contributors) Joey McClellan (electric guitar), McKenzie Smith (drums) and Jesse Chandler (flute), who dovetail with Scott Lee (bass), Daniel Creamer (keyboards) and Beau Bedford (keyboards) from local country-funksters The Texas Gentlemen to form an empathic ‘alt.Wrecking Crew’ of session players. Bedford is also the album’s principal producer, while studio engineer and Centromatic drummer Matt Pence acted as the overarching producer, alongside Pulido, as well as adding percussion and occasional drums.

As Pulido explains, “Midlake self-produced and recorded everything, but as with BNQT, I wanted to embrace collaboration. I’d present songs with just voice and acoustic guitar and ask the musicians where they heard things going, and so we built the songs up organically.”

Within that organic build, Pulido still had specific ideas in mind. He singles out the late, great Harry Nilsson as a key influence. “Midlake songs were often cerebral and minor-key and I wanted some of mine to be more playful and buoyant and major key, which Harry did so well, while still making deep, thoughtful music.”

Pulido also hears traces of The Eagles, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Wings and CS&N in To Each His Own, plus an “eighties vibe” to the record’s freewheeling lead single ‘Used To Be’, inspired by The Last Waltz, the film documentary about Pulido’s all-time favourites, The Band. As he recalls, “The guys are sitting backstage playing ‘Old Time Religion’, and Robbie Robertson says, ‘It’s not like it used to be!’, which has always stuck with me. But it’s OK by me that it’s not like it used to be. Embrace where you’re at, and look forward. Be both the old and the young.”

The closing title track emanates a palpable sense of peace while crystalising Pulido’s past-present/old-young mindset: “I’ve been about all alone / I’ve never felt so good before… And what we did before / No I do not ignore”. With a new BNQT album in the works Pulido is already looking forward. But his present is E.B The Younger, and his effortlessly melodic, gorgeous songs invested with honesty, empathy and love. Listen, and ye shall find.

Introducing… Daughter Of Swords

Daughter of Swords, the new project of Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man, has shared “Gem”, the first peek into her solo output. Of the song, Sauser-Monnig says “‘Gem’ is about that omnipotent feeling you get when you’re falling in love and the rules haven’t been made yet. When everything feels possible and the world looks beautiful and shining, and at the same time, you and the world are kind of dented from human contact. This was the first song Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso) and I produced together. It was so much fun. To me, with its messed up little drum beat and unrelenting optimism, it feels like a romance novel in song form being played out of a tiny, broken cassette player.”

“Gem” is available everywhere now and Daughter of Swords debut album is due summer 2019 on Bella Union/Nonesuch. Additionally, Daughter of Swords has announced two New York shows in November with Sylvan Esso at the Beacon Theatre, with more tour dates to come. 

About “Gem” and Daughter of Swords: There’s a patience in the little things. The arc of sticky summers brimming and eventually cooling, grasses overgrowing before being cut to stubs, creeks rushing to an eventual trickle, night skies growing darker before dawn breaks. In stillness and in presence, we can allow these archetypes to pervade our experience and teach us lessons as old as time and reflexive in every organism’s makeup. This clarity is present in every note of “Gem”, the debut release from Daughter of Swords – Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of Mountain Man. Starting small on a creaky old guitar, a single voice in the air, these meditations were brought to life over the winter in a tiny house at the centre of a creative commune. It’s a compass set, an intention stated, a window flung open to let the summer air in – buoyant, resilient, golden. 

Pom Poko announce headline Scala show

Fresh from playing a raucous and sold out album launch party at London’s Shacklewell Arms, Norwegian noise-makers Pom Poko have sold out their headline show at The Lexington in April and have now added a Scala headline show to their UK tour in October.

The band will play Scala on Weds 23rd October and tickets for the new show are now on sale here. Today’s tour news coincides with an Album of theDay feature on BBC 6 Music for the band’s debut album, ‘Birthday’, which is out now on Bella Union. Between the Norwegian quartet’s sweetly punky melodies and disco-fried art-rock eruptions, a spirit of free-firing, balls-out individuality courses through their exhilarating debut.

Penelope Isles share official “Chlorine” audio

Having recently announced their signing to Bella Union, and about to head off to the US to play a bunch of shows at SXSW, Penelope Isles have today shared the track ‘Chlorine’ from their upcoming debut album, due for release later this year. Bright and brisk, wide-eyed and wistful, ‘Chlorine’ is a dreamy introduction to the instinctive charms and alt-rock chops of the Isle of Man-via-Brighton quartet, forged around siblings Jack and Lily Wolter.

Penelope Isles are about to head off to the US for three shows in New York this weekend followed by SXSW in Austin, Texas next week, the dates and info of which can be found here.

Last week also saw Penelope Isles reveal another new track from the album, as Stereogum premiered a live recording of LP standout “Gnarbone”. 

Liela Moss announces “A Little Bit Of Rain” EP

Having recently supported Villagers on their UK tour, Liela Moss has today announced news of a new 4–track EP of cover versions titled A Little Bit Of Rain due for release 29th March via Bella Union. The EP features cover versions of a number of rain–themed songs by the likes of Eurythmics, Ann Peebles, Scott Walker and The Cure. Liela has shared the track “I Can’t Stand The Rain” by Ann Peebles which you can listen to below…

Of the EP Liela says: “Maybe because I’m a bit neurotic about tidying, sorting and indexing things in my life, I thought that creating sets of cover versions would be a good thing to record this year. I began making lists and categorising things that are related in my mind but nobody else’s! I might do a collection about Weather, Elements, Utensils (watch out for that one) … stuff that is so everyday that we forget to stop and give it a kiss. Essentially I wanted a plaything for new ways of production. Making these covers has been a learning exercise and a way to pay homage to songs that haunted my childhood, including the title which waves a little hello to luscious Karen Dalton.”

Liela will be performing at The Great Escape inBrighton on Saturday 11th May at a night hosted by Bella Union with label mates Jambinai, Piroshka and Pom Poko amongst others. Further details will be announced soon.

Lielareleased her debut solo album My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth on Bella Union in November. Press quotes below:

“The Duke Spirit frontwoman swaps alt–rock for lush stateliness, with echoes of Kate Bush and Burt Bacharach, and lyrics to adore.” The Guardian – 4 Stars ****

“Evoking Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at their most avidly orchestral, Moss delivers a sumptuous set of glorious ballads that emphasise her expressiveness as a vocalist.” Uncut – 8/10

“Sumptuous… Steeped in piano, strings, bass and reverb, it’s intimacy on a grand scale… Moss has dug very deep to make the best record of her life.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“There’s a lushness to the arrangements that help showcase her strong voice, and an abundance of winning choruses… A solidly impressive album.” Q

“Her vocal unfurls mesmerically across the ten tracks… An expansive and elemental reawakening.” Long Live Vinyl – 8/10

“A vibrant, urgent, biting return, one that confounds expectations while feeling utterly true to Liela Moss’  blueprint.” CLASH

“One of rock’s great (if under appreciated) voices.” Rolling Stone Magazine

“Grandly orchestrated a la Massive Attack, with Moss’ voice simultaneously shuddering and sultry.” Classic Pop

“An arresting album… Musical drama spills from the speakers.” The Arts Desk – 4 stars ****

A Little Bit Of Rain will be released 29th March via Bella Union.